OBSERVERS have said Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old man suspected of massacring nine parishioners in a historically black church in the United States, is likely a white supremacist.
This is after a picture showed him wearing a jacket with the flags of Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia-two avowedly racist nations.
The Wednesday mass-shooting followed months of racially charged protests over the killings of black men which have shaken the US.
Roof was arrested on Thursday after an attack that authorities are investigating as a hate crime.
The young man was nabbed after a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina, about 350 km north of Charleston where the tragedy took place, said police chief Gregory Mullen.
Reports quoted Mullen saying: “This individual committed a tragic, heinous crime last night”.
Observers said the Rhodesian and Apartheid South Africa flags on his jacket were proof that he is a white supremacist.
Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was a racist country, akin to apartheid South Africa, and became a sort of cause celebre for white supremacists in the 1960s and 1970s- one some still mythologise today.
After the area was colonised by the British in the late 1890s, a racial caste system quickly emerged in what would become Rhodesia, where white people controlled the commanding political heights, as well as most of the prime land, while black people served as peasants.
In 1965, whites led by Ian Smith declared independence from Britain, and founded Rhodesia, named after Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist who led the colonisation of the area.
In the United States where the civil rights movement was winning historic victories, white supremacists saw the viciously racist Rhodesian government as a victory worth celebrating.
By 1976, “there was a sprawling proliferation of pro-Rhodesian organisations in the United States,” UNC-Chapel Hill historian Gerald Horne writes; “The transatlantic question of race was the essential glue that held the lobby together.”
In 1979, the Rhodesian government was toppled by an armed uprising — no surprise, considering black people outnumbered their white counterparts by about 25:1 (the equivalent number in South Africa was 7:1, per Horne).
But the new Zimbabwean government has had serious problems.
Long serving President Robert Mugabe is now largely seen as a nasty authoritarian: Zimbabwe under Mugabe has been an economic basket-case, suffering some of the world’s worst economic woes and human rights abuses.
Observers said that could be why people like Roof mythologise Rhodesia today, seeing these developments as proof that countries are better off when white people run them.
Earlier this year, about 150 people on a white supremacist web forum volunteered online to “found” a “new country” in Africa. They called it, naturally, “New Rhodesia”.
The lesson of Rhodesia, for white supremacists, is that black people are a threat to a healthy white-run society. And they need to be kept down.